Yoshishige Saito, an internationally renowned artist and pioneer of the avant-garde movement in Japan, died Wednesday at a Yokohama hospital, his family said. He was 97.

The cause of death was not released.

Born in Tokyo, Saito started his career as an artist in the 1920s drawing abstract paintings and creating chipboard relief works under the strong influence of Russian constructivism and dada.

He won his first prize in a Japanese art exhibition in 1936 and took part in establishing a group of avant-garde artists in Japan.

He was absent from the art circle for a period after World War II but made a comeback in 1957 when he won a prize in another art exhibition.

Saito gained international fame when he won prizes at the Guggenheim International Exhibition in 1960 and at the Sao Paulo Biennale the following year, for which he was acknowledged as a representative of Japanese abstractionism.

In 1973, Saito started recreating chipboard reliefs damaged or destroyed during the war.

He served as a professor at Tama Art University in Tokyo and influenced many young Japanese artists.

He remained creatively active in his later life and held an exhibition at Nizayama Forest Art Museum in Toyama Prefecture in 1998.

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